Too Easily Offended

Americans are just a bunch of softies these days. We offend easily and expect everyone else to offend easily. Consider the dispute over Christmas.

Christians have celebrated Christmas with gusto for some years. Over the past century Americans have gone all out in their celebration of Christmas, commercializing it in the process. But then we got sensitive. What about the Jews? How can we celebrate Christmas when they don’t? We’ll celebrate Hannukah just like we celebrate Christmas. So we start commercializing another holiday.

But in the past few years we’ve discovered there are people who neither celebrate Christmas nor Hannukah. What can we do? Well, for Muslims, we’ll “Christmas-ize” Eid, the festival at the end of Ramadan (sometimes it can happen in December), for some African Americans we’ll Christmas-ize Kwanzaa. Maybe we’ll keep everyone happy.

But maybe not. What about all the people who vociferously believe nothing – or nothing like any other large organized groups of people believe?

We are now seeing in increasing amounts, not only the commercialization of Christmas, but the de-Christmas-ing of Christmas. It used to be when we said we needed to “put Christ in Christmas” we meant that in the midst of shopping and partying we needed to remember Jesus too. Now when we say “put Christ in Christmas” we’re speaking up for even the bare mention of his name. “Winter holiday” is ok. “Happy Holidays” is ok. Hannukah and Kwanzaa and Eid are still ok. But in more and more places, “Christmas” is out. Somebody might be offended.

How painful is this offense? How does it work? Does it cause broken bones? Ulcers? Fear of hellfire? How can the fact that many Americans celebrate Christmas – whether sentimentally as the season of snow, santa and baby Jesus, or more devotionally as the birthday of their Lord and Savior – be so dangerous? Are they afraid that in our celebratory orgies we’ll kidnap some children and cook them for our Christmas feast? That’s what some of the ancient Romans feared about the early Christians – and what some medieval Christians feared about the Jews. Utter nonsense.

But being offended at Christmas – or any other display of a particular religion – is only one instance of our tendency to be offended. I have seen many situations of late where we disallow saying something good about someone (individual or group) because people take our affirmation to also include a condemnation of those NOT mentioned, our outside the group mentioned. How did we ever get to this place?

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